Cincinnati Reds should plan on center fielder Billy Hamilton batting fifth

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds have long forced the speedster to bat lead-off despite insufficient OBP numbers.

The Cincinnati Reds know that center fielder Billy Hamilton is the fastest player in MLB.  He is among an elite few in running the basepaths.  However, that doesn’t mean that Hamilton has to bat lead-off.

For the past four years the Reds have either batted Hamilton first or ninth.  Based on who Hamilton is, neither of these options is appropriate.  His OBP is too low to bat lead-off and no outfielder can afford to bat ninth in the National League.

Hamilton’s OBP is .299 for his career and this season.  That number is barely good enough for a starting player.  His speed has kept him atop the line-up.

The Reds had twelve players with higher OBP than Hamilton this season.  Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, and Eugenio Suarez led the team in OBP in 2017.  Suarez and Votto will be back there next season too, while Cozart’s season was an outlier.

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Hamilton doesn’t strikeout or walk much, let alone hit many home runs.  That makes him an outlier in today’s three outcome offenses.  Most players are trained to hit a home run, walk or strike out trying in high school and college.

Without OBP or slugging skill, Billy Hamilton doesn’t make sense as the lead-off batter for the Cincinnati Reds.

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Suarez and Votto have already been identified as two batters that should be near the top of the Reds order.  Sluggers Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett are two others that should bat at the top of the line-up.  Votto and Suarez are too slow to bat lead-off.

That leaves Duvall and Gennett to replace Hamilton in the first slot in the batting order.  Duvall earned the right to bat lead-off by having a better second season as the Reds’ everyday left fielder after making the All-Star team in his first.  Duvall may not sustain sufficient OBP, but he earned the right to try.

That leaves Gennett batting clean-up.  To start 2018 that works.  Gennett may not duplicate the power numbers in 2018, but, like Duvall, Gennett earned his position for next season.

That leaves Hamilton to bat fifth.  Batting fifth allows the Reds to take advantage of his speed.  It also leaves three batters behind Hamilton to drive him in after he gets on base.

Next: Should Billy Hamilton be on his way out?

The Reds need to do something with Hamilton if they are going to keep him around next season.  His OBP him from batting lead-off anymore and the Reds must know this.  Now they just need to decide where in the bottom half of the order maximizes Hamilton’s offensive output in 2018.